Celebrating National Picnic Month with the history of Picnicking

July 16th, 2015

In today terms the notion of going for a picnic simply means to go out for an enjoyable outing that involves a selection of tasty items to eat and drink while outdoors, preferably in a beautiful location with family, friends, or a loved one. But have you ever stopped and thought just where the idea of eating outdoors and sharing food and drink with people comes from? We can tell you!


Picnics, before they were called picnics date back to the medieval times in England.

Picnics have evolved from the extravagant traditions of outdoor feasts revelled in by the wealthy. Medieval hunting feasts along with Renaissance era country banquets are the occasions that are credited with laying the original foundations of the outdoor dining experiences we are so familiar with and enjoy so much today. As Europeans we can boast of being the pioneers of picnicking.

During the 14th century in England the earliest picnics were our medieval hunting feasts. These feasts took place prior to a hunt and were of significant importance. The main foods found available were baked meats, hams and pastries.

An official definition of picnic describes it as “a fashionable social entertainment in which each person present contributed a share of the provisions; now, a pleasure party including an excursion to some spot in the country where all partake of a repast out of doors: the participants may bring with them individually the viands and means of entertainment, or the whole may be provided by someone who “gives the picnic”.

The word picnic was known in France, Germany, and Sweden prior to it becoming a part of our English society. The first usage of the word picnic was traced back to French text from the 16th century, describing the word as a definition for ‘a group of people dining in a restaurant who brought their own wine’. One such theory is that the word picnic is founded on the verb piquer, which means to ‘pick’ or ‘peck’, which was then rhymed with nique, thought to mean trifle. Furthermore we can see in the 1692 edition of Origines de la Langue Franqoise de Ménage mentions of ‘piquenique’, and this is thought to be the very first appearance of the word picnic in print. But it wasn’t until the mid-1700 that the word picnic first appeared in English texts, possibly entering the English language from this French word or from the German Picknick.

Trawling back through the history archives, we can see that several hundred years ago a picnic stood for a ‘potluck’, which was an interesting form of entertainment whereby each person contributed with an individual dish to a communal table for all to share.

Thankfully we have the pastime of picnicking in our lives and boy do we have some spectacular places to explore and enjoy while you’re staying at our 5 star holiday cottages in Cornwall! So in honour of National Picnic Month we suggest you take yourself somewhere delightful so that you can relax, soak up the scenery with some great company and delicious foods.


Image: Jeremy Noble under Creative Commons